Week 133: Franklin Hills

June 10, 2018

Walking L.A. #24, Franklin Hills: What Lies on the Other Side of the Bridge, 1/2 mile, 549 stairs

Barbara and I parked a mile away to add another 2 miles of cardio to this short but vigorous hike, walking from Sunset to Fountain and up Talmadge (named for Norma Talmadge) past Prospect Studios to the Shakespeare Bridge on Franklin. I found the Pendersleigh & Sons cartography map of old Franklin Hills online—a great depiction of the composition of the neighborhood in the early 20th century. When Vitagraph Studios were built in 1915, the hills above the studio were basically empty. Today they are filled with an architectural array of hillside homes overlooking L.A. from Mt. Baldy to the ocean. Vitagraph churned out hundreds of silents and shorts before it sold the property to WB in 1925. At the same time, the city planned construction of the Franklin Avenue Bridge across the ravine where the Arroyo de la Sacatela once flowed. But in 1926, the ravine was dry and local homeowners protested the bridge's construction. The city built it anyway and Architect J.C. Wright's design and execution resulted in today's L.A. Historical-Cultural Monument. There's no documented reason why it's called the Shakespeare Bridge, though Wright's turrets, towers, and arches define the 2-lane bridge without needing an explanation. At the east end of the bridge Barbara and I descended the 86-step St. George Street staircase to Sanborn then walked to Melbourne and our second staircase. The Radio Walk Stairs are an old favorite from a previous hike: the 224 steps kicked our heart rates into gear, paying off with a clear, sweeping view from the top. Franklin Hills, bordered by Talmadge, Tracy, Hyperion, and Fountain, has 14 public stairways—a high concentration for an area without specific trolley stops in the 1920s—but what a treat for locals and studio workers back then and cardio junkies now! Today's hike only covered three staircases, our last a descent down the 239-step Prospect Walk, but the stairs provide a delightful way to explore the hills and enjoy the view while burning off calories. Last stop, Dinosaur Coffee on Sunset for mocha and reassurance.



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